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Nov 16, 2000

GETTING BACK TO NORMAL

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I got back to St Barth on November 1 (after a few weeks break in the United States) and hit the ground running. I no sooner kicked off my high-top Nikes and slipped into flip-flops than I was off on a tour of the island's cemeteries. I realize that might sound a bit ghoulish, but November 1 is a legal holiday here - All Saint's Day - with the schools, banks, post offices, and lots of businesses closed up as tight a clam. However, it is the day when local families honor the deceased, which makes the cemeteries in St. Jean, Lorient, and Public the liveliest places on the island. And by the end of the day they are about the prettiest places as well. Everyone takes bouquets of silk flowers along with lots of votive candles (the combination can be dangerous if the flowers are placed too close to the candles as happened in St Jean. Fortunately the fire station is right behind the cemetery but the small fire was put out immediately with no need to call in the firemen). The All Saint's Day activity is a wonderful island tradition that has withstood the test of time.
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Things are a little faster-moving in the island's restaurant community where traditions are short lived and changes are commonplace. In fact there have been so many changes already this year that you might find yourself rubbing your eyes when you enter certain restaurants since you will be sure you are seeing things, or people, that can't possibly be there. The list is daunting, and its hard to tell who's on first anymore.
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To begin with, there is Eddie, formerly in the tiny kitchen at the Saladerie, and now the new chef working with Maya at her famous restaurant in Public. Maya's former chef, Jean-Claude and a few buddies have set down their placemats in their new restaurant at Saline With Peace. Right up the road is the Gommier, where you will now find Stephane, the former Maitre D at Le Toiny. Charles from the Eden Rock has moved over to the Isle de France to manage the hotel for its new English owners. And the Entrepont has reopened in Gustavia, in the same location as the former restaurant of the same name, which has been called The Spot and Zion Cafe in the meantime. The Wall House has new management as well, but is keeping its name, while IB and Bertrand Charneau are still at their restaurant at The Village St Jean, but they have changed its name from Le Patio to La Terrazza. Vincent Adam and Cups seem to be gone forever. As does the parking lot at La Gloriette, or at least for the time being. While we're at it, La Banane has new Belgian owners and is under some pretty serious renovation. Hard to keep up with all these changes but at least the island has shaken off its summer doldrums and made it through the hurricane season without getting slammed.
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In the next few weeks there is a full moon regatta, the Swedish marathon or Gustavialoppet, a few volleyball tournaments, a beach clean up day, and lots of other action as the island resumes its normal pace. I hope there will be some regattas for the island's traditional sailboats, as there is a new one it will be interesting to keep an eye on. Actually its a replica of Eclair, a small wooden sailboat that was made here thirty years ago by the Bernier brothers, Edouard and Guy, in Corossol. All of the other boats of this sort are made on other islands, but Eclair was made by hand in a garage. The only problem was getting it out as it was too big to exit by the door. No problem, they simply ripped out part of the wall. As befitting its name, Eclair was as fast as lightning, but after a few years of racing, the local scene changed and the boat was put up for sale. It eventually found its way to a maritime museum in France, but not before fiberglass molds of its hull were made.
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Last year, Edouard and Guy decided to use the molds and make an exact (well, pretty close) replica of the original. It may be smaller than the other boats that race today, but the Berniers are sure they can be competitive once they get the sails and weight problems sorted out. I'll be on the shore wishing them luck the next time they race. Then I'll head off to some restaurant or other and see how all these people are doing in their new surroundings.

More to come,


Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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